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Pink Floyd - The Endless River CD (album) cover

THE ENDLESS RIVER

Pink Floyd

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.35 | 721 ratings

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russellk
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Endless River, but no Waters

One of the many benefits of living Down Under is getting Friday releases of major albums. Ideally I'd wait for a few weeks to offer a review, but many people will be wondering if the purchase is worth it, so here are some thoughts.

It is.

At heart, pre-1977 Pink Floyd was a laced-up-tight British band whose polite Arthur Dent-like anger went largely unexpressed except for whenever Gilmour let loose a guitar solo. (It's no surprise Douglas Adams was a lifelong Floyd fan.) Gentle vocals - until Waters took over - stately rhythms and serene synths, all set against Gilmour's searing, snorting solos. But when the band ceded creative control to Waters the balance was lost. His relentless apoplexy from 'Animals' onwards overwhelmed even Gilmour's solos, rendering them irrelevant.

In hindsight it's surprising the balance lasted as long as it did. The classic post-Barrett Pink Floyd period includes every album in the 1970s, defined as it were by a progressively higher anger quotient. 'Atom Heart Mother' had none at all, and so for many is a bewildering curiosity and nothing more. By the end of the decade their last meaningful twitch, 'The Wall', was so drenched in fury it left many listeners equally bewildered. Fame, it appeared, had not mellowed Roger: it had enraged him. Their end was inevitable. Accusations, shouting, courtrooms.

Despite all this they never compromised their quintessential Britishness: no faux-American accents or lyrics about Detroit. But Waters took it all too far in the late 70s. His dismissal of Richard Wright, he of the sublime keys, was not just about a poor work ethic. Because Waters wanted the anger unleashed he didn't need Wright's subtlety, and in unleashing the anger he ruined the Pink Floyd sound, turning it instead into Wes Craven buffoonery.

Wind forward thirty years after their disintegration, and there is no buffoonery here. Richard Wright has been posthumously reinstated: in fact, this is his album, which is as pointed a poke at Waters as it gets. Some may say this is a David Gilmour solo album, but I'd suggest taking Nick Mason seriously when he says 'The Endless River' is a Rick Wright tribute. This is the classic 1970-75 Pink Floyd sound. Glacial, understated, laced up tight. In fact, with Waters barely a memory, no anger either. And that is at the heart of what is missing in The Endless River: anger. The anger best expressed not by Waters' godawful shouting a la 'The Final Cut', an album filled with nothing more than phlegm and spittle, but the tight, barely-suppressed rage heard in basslines for songs like 'One Of These Days' or 'Sheep'. Pink Floyd were at their best when Roger Waters wanted to scream but let Gilmour do it for him.

It was a precarious balance, yes, but for most of a decade it worked.

Your reaction to 'The Endless River' will depend on the level of anger/Waters you're looking for. Think 'Atom Heart Mother' rather than 'Animals', pastoral rather than visceral, ambient rather than rock and you'll know what to expect. If you've ever wanted more of the first four or the last ten minutes of 'Wish You Were Here', you've got your wish in spades. There's barely any momentum, let alone anger here.

The music is reconstituted from 'The Division Bell' sessions, and occasionally it shows. Gilmour and Mason have done their best to integrate the various material, but at times it sounds fragmentary. It's certainly derivative, but only of their own music. An example of a callback is 'Skins' which references 'A Saucerful of Secrets'. There's little muscle, and Gilmour sings on only one song, but there's oodles of Rick Wright beauty. There are also some genuinely thrilling moments. The three Floydians working together on 'It's What We Do', the skittering electronics and thumping percussion of 'Sum', the muscle of 'Allons-y', the poorly titled but charming 3/4 time 'Talkin' Hawkin' and the honest reflection of 'Louder Than Words' are all worth the price of the recording. It works - mostly. It is a genuine Pink Floyd album, more so, I believe, than anything since 'The Wall'. It's also a genuine three-star album. Despite this, it is required listening for any serious prog rock fan.

russellk | 3/5 |

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